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tv   Key Capitol Hill Hearings  CSPAN  March 10, 2014 8:00pm-10:01pm EDT

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and they have plans to create a national carbon market by 2020. how about current investments? in 2012, the united states spent about $35 billion on renewables while china spent $64 billion. finally, there is nothing that we can do. let's throw in the towel. this science accepts the science, accepts the impacts, but seems to have given up. when did we start thinking we couldn't solve america's big problems? since when did we start thinking we were too small or not important enough to make a difference? i don't believe that. i believe that when america leads, the world follows, and for this country to lead, this congress needs to act. i yield the floor. mr. wyden: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from oregon. mr. wyden: madam president, earlier this evening, i touched on the numbers that underlie this debate, numbers from the
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national oceanic and atmospheric administration, the numbers from the national academy of sciences and said they really drive me to the judgment that climate change is the scientific equivalent of a speeding mack truck. but, madam president, i believe numbers really don't capture this discussion fully because what people really want to know is what's the impact of climate change in their community? what does it really mean for them in actually their part of our country? so to get into those impacts, i want to start with one that is really shellacking my home state, and that is these wildfires that are burning longer, getting hotter and starting earlier. drought and high temperatures from climate change are driving all of this. during the early part of this past year, fires and intense
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wildfires burned across parts of the united states, threatening population centers and destroying hundreds of homes, and this winter, fires have already burned in western oregon, something that used to be very rare. the number of houses that have burned in our country from wildfires has increased a staggering 400% in just the last couple of years and it is projected to get far worse. in 2012, 40% of my home state of oregon burned in just one summer, and nearly 1.5 million acres burned across the pacific northwest. wildfires, of course, have always been part of life in my home state, but the fires in recent years are getting hotter and are significantly more threatening to homes. our country's top scientists say that the conditions that cause these recent fire seasons to become more severe, including drought accompanied by above
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average temperatures are now more common due to human induced climate change. over the past 30 years, the fire season has become two and a half months longer and both the number and severity of sylvester fires in the northwest have increased sevenfold. scientists who have examined this issue say that climate change is a significant factor behind it. now, madam president, to their credit, the obama administration has indicated that they want to work with senators of both political parties to tackle this issue, and in particular what they have suggested, and senator crapo and i, he is the republican senator from idaho, have pushed this strongly, is that instead of shorting the prevention fund, which is the heart of the problem, where he has to go in and thin out these overstocked stands, instead of shorting the prevention fund, which is what happens every year
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now because these fires are so big and so hot, what happens is the bureaucracy comes in and takes money from the prevention fund in order to suppress the fires and the problem, of course, gets worse because we don't have the funds for prevention. so the administration wants to work with democrats and republicans here in the senate, here in the other body so that the most serious fires, just the most serious ones get handled from the disaster fund, and we believe this is going to free up additional support for efforts to prevent these fires, and that will be beneficial to our communities. now, second i want to focus on power sector vulnerability, the drought and high temperatures that can lead to the wildfires and make our power grid more vulnerable also raise the question of the implications for our grid and for taxpayers. much of that vulnerability,
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madam president, comes from changes in water supply and water temperature. water, of course, plays critical roles in generating electricity. water is needed for generating hydropower, something, of course, that we do a lot of in the pacific northwest. it's also needed for cooling and many other types of generation like nuclear, biomass and coal. for those generators, water must not only be available in sufficient quantities, but it has to be cool enough to allow the plants to run safely and efficiently. that means that climate change poses a double threat to some of these facilities, and this is not a hypothetical situation. recent history has already shown the power sector's vulnerability to both drought and high temperatures. in 2001, for example, severe drought in the pacific northwest and in california significantly reduced hydroelectric generation, causing tight electricity supplies and high prices throughout the west.
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that drought was estimated to have an economic impact of between $2.5 billion and $6 billion. and high temperatures have also made water too hot to actually be able to cool some power plants. in 2007, the tennessee valley authority had to temporarily shut down its browns ferry nuclear plant because the intake water temperatures were too high. in 2012, the millstone nuclear plant that powers half of connecticut had to take 40% of its capacity offline for almost two weeks because the cooling water it was getting from long island sound was too warm. in that same year, the braidwood nuclear facility in illinois had to get an exemption to use intake water that was 102 degrees instead of shutting down during a heat wave. let me tell you when somebody has their air conditioning on high because it's over 100 degrees out, that's not a time that you can afford to be taking a base load power plant
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offline. so far it's been possible to get through the heat and drought-related shutdowns at these power plants without major outages. well, let's make no mistake about it. the ratepayers have definitely felt them in their power bills. in texas during the summer of 2011, for example, electricity was selling on the spot market for $3,000 per megawatt hour, 100 times over the normal rate. now, next i want to talk about effects of climate on energy infrastructure. the power sector isn't the only bit of energy infrastructure that's vulnerable to climate change. recently, i, along with the majority leader, senator reid and senator franken, harkin and mark udall, asked the government accountability office to look into the effects of climate change on energy infrastructure. now, that report was just released, madam president. what the general accounting office found is that climate changes are projected to affect
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infrastructure throughout all major stages of the energy supply chain, and of course once again increasing the risk of disruptions. in addition to power sector vulnerabilities, the g.a.o. also found vulnerabilities among the infrastructure for producing and extracting natural resources, including oil and gas platforms, refineries and processing plants. this infrastructure is often located near the coast, making it vulnerable to severe weather and sea level rise. geotransportation and storage infrastructure, including pipelines, railways and storage tanks is also susceptible to damage from severe weather, melting permafrost and increased description. so now i'm going to close, madam president, by outlining some of the steps that can actually be done to deal with these issues. i'm sure people who are following this discussion tonight are saying all right, they're making a good case about
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the nature of the problem, so what else? what comes next in terms of our ability to take action to deal with this? i have said before there are a host of areas where we're going to have to work in a global kind of manner to build support with other countries for tackling climate change, but there is no question, madam president, that this senate can put points on the board this year in the fight against climate change. i'm very pleased to have been able to work with our colleague, senator murkowski, the ranking republican on the energy and natural resources committee over this past year. until recently, i served as chairman of the energy and natural resources committee, and we were able to pass a major law to spur development of hydropower, which is really one of america's forgotten renewables. hydropower already makes up two-thirds of our country's renewable power, so this is
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obviously a vital renewable source of energy, so our legislation makes it easier to put hydroon existing dams, irrigation canals and conduits, and we believe it's going to spark big investments in clean renewable power. madam president, the national hydropower association estimates that there are 60,000 megawatts of potential knew hydropower in our country yet to be harnessed. in addition, our committee passed an important bill to cut red tape associated with developing geothermal power on public lands. my colleagues and i urged the administration to take steps to have tools at their disposal to invest in energy efficiency and use the savings to pay for those upgrades. and i'm looking forward, madam president, out here on the floor of the united states senate to be able to pass what i would call the platonic ideal of
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consensus energy legislation, and that is the bill that has been sponsored by our colleagues, senator shaheen and senator portman, and i'm very pleased that we had a very promising development over the last few weeks where we have brought together those who care about trying to promote clean, renewable energy in federal buildings. we have been able to get common ground between senators of differing views, and i look forward to seeing that bill, the shaheen-portman bill out on the floor of the united states senate. now, the fact is a number of our renewable energy sources have been on a roll over the past several years, demonstrating their potential. for example, onshore wind has installed tens of thousands of megawatts of capacity in recent years when the policy support has been in place. as expected, the costs have come down with technology improvements and experience,
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economies of scale and as a deep domestic supply chain has built up to manufacture all of the components of the wind turbines and towers. the policy support has been working and wind is now knocking at the door of competitiveness with fossil technologies. offshore wind is also picking up steam, even off the coast of my home state where the waters have always been too deep for offshore wind to be possible. a company called principal power is trying to solve that problem by demonstrating floating offshore wind turbines just off the coast of coos bay in my home state. putting a turbine on a floating platform instead of mounting it on a tower on the ocean floor has the potential to truly dramatically change the potential for offshore wind. it will let developers tap into the huge, windy resource above the deep waters off the coast of oregon and elsewhere but without the footprint on the ocean floor
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and without affecting views from the coast. it's a promising technology, but like all first of a kind technologies, it is going to cost a bit more, and that's why it ought to get policy support so that we can realize the potential of commercial scale energy. finally, the cost of solar power have also been dropping like a rock, and the potential for sustainable biomass to provide quadruple wind of low carbon energy, reduced forest health, reduced danger of forest fires and economic growth is still out there waiting to be fully developed. madam president, i want to touch on two remaining issues, and one is before the senate finance committee. it's my strong view that the tax treatment of all energy production in the united states ought to be modified so that all energy sources compete on a
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technology-neutral level playing field, and that, i would say, madam president and colleagues, that ought to be one of the major goals, one of the major goals of comprehensive tax reform, which in my view is really the grand bipartisan prize for senate finance committee members. now, in the short term, we have another challenge. we shouldn't let the renewable energy industries that are so important simply fall off the cliff just when the supply chains have been developed and just when they are reaching a level of competitiveness where they can really take off. so it's my hope, madam president, that it's possible to work in a bipartisan way, and i intend to talk to senator hatch, the ranking republican of the finance committee and colleagues on both sides of the aisle to work on a tax extenders package that includes a variety of clean energy and efficiency credits. senator hatch and i have been
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interested in moving forward this spring through the regular order and mark up this kind of energy package in the finance committee. and i'll close by talking about natural gas because to capture all of the climate benefits, we also have to factor in the dramatic shale gas revolution. we understand that natural gas has turned the energy equation upside-down over the past few years. along the way, it has provided a low-cost way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at the same time. increased usage of natural gas has helped our country to reach its lowest level of greenhouse gas emissions since 1994, even as the economy has been picking up steam. manufacturing and industrial operations have been moving back to the united states to take advantage of cheap, reliable g gas. this is good news that was almost unimaginable just a few
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years ago. but we have some major challenges as well, madam president. i'm concerned that methane emissions from leaky compressors and leaky pipes could undermine the emission benefits of natural gas in a way that isn't being accounted for. a recent report showed that a leakage rate of just 3% through the entire natural gas supply chain could make burning natural gas the same as burning coal from a climate perspective. so i have been pushing hard with colleagues here in the senate to keep that leakage rate below 1% from production to usage to make sure the climate benefits come to reality. now, there are technology as that can address the issue of leakage and they already exist. they can be put in place at almost no net cost with many of the measures paying for themselves. there's been a comprehensive study in the measures for reducing methane leaks through
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the natural gas usage change and it found that emissions could be reduced by 40% with technologies that already exist and are practical today. the scale of this problem, madam president, is, of course, so immense and it's what senators are talking about here tonight, that it's going to take everyone pulling together at every level to make the meaningful change actually happen. we're going to need continued leadership from our entrepreneurs who aren't settling -- sitting idly by but are innovating to come up with solutions to climate change. we're going to need savvy consumers demanding lower carbon, more efficient goods and services. we'll need leadership from retailers who are going to ask more of their suppliers and supply chains to give them products to sell to those consumers. and, of course, the key is always innovation in the private sector. private-sector leaders working
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with our national labs and universities. i'm very proud that my home state of oregon is especially going to lead the state efforts in trying to promote sustainability, renewables and efficiency at the local level. and to wrap up my remarks, let me state the obvious, madam president. it is going to take new leadership from the congress of the united states. the congress of the united states is going to have to lead if we're going to get a long-term framework for a low-carbon economy that innovators, entrepreneurs and others can use in the days ahead to address this global nature of this problem. and i think we're up to it here in the senate, madam president. i think we're up to doing it in a bipartisan way and that's what i look forward to being part of in the days ahead. and i yield the floor. a senator: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from rhode island. mr. whitehouse: senator feinstein is scheduled to speak
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next and we're delighted that she is. i just wanted to make a public service announcement at this point in the evening. any staff to senators who are here through the night, any floor staff, republican floor staff as well, are invited, any on the parliamentary staff who are interested, there is dinner available in room s. 219. and better to get it while it's hot. that's the end of the public service announcement. the presiding officer: thank you. mrs. feinstein: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from california. mrs. feinstein: madam president, i ask unanimous consent that the order with respect 20 alternating blocks of time be vitiated and that the senate remain in a period of morning business until 8:45 a.m. tuesday, march 11, with senators permitted to speak for up to 10 minutes each. the presiding officer: without objection. mrs. feinstein: thank you, madam president. now i ask unanimous consent to speak for between 20 and 30 minutes. the presiding officer: without
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objection. mrs. feinstein: thank you very much, madam president. i want to begin by thanking my friend and colleague, senator boxer, for her leadership. it was two years ago i think that she began a climate action task force that took place at 12:00 noon when all our stomachs were grumbling for food but provided some very interesting advice, very interesting knowledge, interesting scholars that came to speak. and she was then joined by senator whitehouse when he came, now senator markey, and there's quite a large number certainly of democratic senators that attend these tuesday at 12:00 noon meetings. so i want to thank them very much for this leadership. as you have heard already, debate over climate change has ranged for years here -- raged for years here on capitol hill, but the scientific facts actually have been conclusive for some time now.
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most people i have found don't realize the greenhouse gases we put in the atmosphere just don't go away. they don't dissipate. these gases can stay for decades. our actions, the greenhouse gas pollution we put into the air and the forests we cut down are changing the composition of earth's atmosphere, increasing the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to well above 400 parts per million. just look at this chart. as this chart shows, this is -- these are global warming gases. these are carbon dioxide. and you can see how it's run quite along at this level. and then in the last few years, it's began to jump up. so the current high was in -- in 2013 with 396 million tons of it
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going into this atmosphere, which has a blanket or like a shield over it. people don't know this. and so all these gases remain in our atmosphere year after year, decade after decade and century after century. this change is altering how our atmosphere interacts with massive amounts of solar energy, radiating out from the center of our solar system. within the scientific community, earth's blanket, our atmosphere, is going more effective at trapping heat. the full effects of this stronger blanket or shield, or whatever you want to call it, must be projected into the future. and different projections show different effects. but we know this -- change is coming and i it has already beg. now, a lot of people also
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believe that our earth is immutable, that we can't destroy it, that it can't change. they assume that our planet has always been pretty much the sa same. but the last time earth's atmosphere contained 400 parts per million of carbon dioxide was more than 3 million years ago, when horses and camels lived in the high arctic in conditions that averaged 18 degrees warmer than today. seas were at least 30 feet higher, at a level that today would inundate major cities around the world and flood the homes of a quarter of the united states population. concentrations of carbon dioxide have risen, as i said, from the 280 parts per million to more than 400 parts per million in just the last 150 years. now, scientists tell us there's no known geologic period in
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which concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere have increased as quickly. bottom line, never has our planet faced a faster or more ecologically devastating change. to settle the scientific debate over climate change, the bush administration appointed a national academy of sciences blue-ribbon panel. the group, which included former climate change deniers, reported to congress in 2001 that greenhouse gases are -- quote -- "causing surface air temperatures and subsurface ocean temperatures to rise." temperatures are, in fact, rising, they said. then the united nations created its intergovernmental panel on climate change. a group of more than 600 leading
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scientific experts. and what did they say? what they said -- and i quote -- "the warming of the climate system is unequivocal, and since the 1950's, many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia. average temperatures over land and ocean surfaces globally have increased 1.53 degrees fahrenheit from 1980-2012, with the highest rate of increase in the past three decades. just look at this. see how this line is carbon dioxide concentration. look at it here. now, watch it. the temperatures are still down. watch the line start to go up. and watch the climate warm to where it is today.
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they said the atmosphere and ocean have warmed, the amounts of snow and ice have diminished, sea level has risen and the concentrations of greenhouse gases have increased. this makes that clear. if we don't reduce the greenhouse gas emissions, the national research council predicts the average global temperatures will increase by as much as 11.5 degrees -- 11.5 degrees -- by 2100. such a dramatic and rapid increase would be catastrophic to our planet earth. it would change our world permanently. as temperatures have increased, we've seen that ice sheets that cover the north and south poles have begun melting. the average annual arctic sea ice area has decreased more than 20% since 1979.
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that's when satellite records became available. the greenland ice sheet has melted by nearly 30%. and here you see it. you see the arctic. you see the way it was in 1979 and you see what's been lost and what's left. the melting of glaciers and ice caps, along with expansion of ocean water due to the increase in temperature, have caused the global sea level to rise by eight inches since 1870, with over two inches in the past 20 years. if we do nothing to stop climate change, scientific models project that there's a real possibility of sea level increasing by as much as four feet by the end of this century. four feet. now, what would four feet do?
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at risk are nearly 2.6 million homes located less than four feet above high tide nationwide. let me speak about my home state, california. we have within those four feet the homes of 450,000 people. 30 coastal power plants with generating capacity of 10 gigawatts; 22 wastewater treatment plants with capacity of 325 million gallons per day; 3,500 miles of roadway; 200 miles of railway; 140 schools.5; 55 hospitals and other health care facilities. these could all be inundated by the end of the century. oakland and san francisco international airports are susceptible to flooding and both are today studying expensive new levee systems to hold back the tides.
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sea level rise in california would also cause flooding of low-lying areas, loss of coastal wetlands, such as portions of the bay delta, erosion of cliffs and beaches, and salt water contamination of drinking water. bottom line -- rising seas puts california's homes, public facilities, and environmental resources in great peril. and adapting to this change will impose great cost. temperatures in california have increased 1.25 degrees fahrenheit over the past four decades. now, the warmer climate could be particularly devastating to us, where threats from catastrophic wildfire, reduction in water resources will like the make sunny california a desert state. the sierra nevada snowpack -- and we're hearing a lot about
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that now -- which includes lake tahoe, is the state's largest source of water for 38 million people. it equals about half the storage capacity of all of california's manmade reservoirs. if we do nothing, the sierra nevada spring sno snowpack could drop by as much as 60% to 80% by the end of the century, eliminating the water source for nearly 16 million people. only four states have populations that large of 16 million. and the largest agricultural state in the united states, california needs water resources to farm and grow crops. the 38 million people living in our state also need water to drink, to bathe, to water flowers, for business to flourish. major fire is another danger
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because of the size, severity, duration, and frequency of fires are greatly influenced by climate. this is the rimfire, not too long ago. it gives you an idea of how things burn. fire seasons in the west are starting sooner. they're lasting longer. the average length has increased by 78 days since 1970. a 64% increase. that isn't coincidence. and climate change is suspected as a key mechanism for that change. the change is apparent. during a recent senate hearing, the united states forest service chief ti tidwell testified, "on average, wildfires burn twice as many akers each year as compared -- twice as many akers each year as compared to 40 years ago. and there are on average seven times as many fires as the
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10,000 acres per year." seven times more fires over 10,000 acres. i believe this: we cannot stop climate change from happening. we do not have a silver bullet. there is no action we can take to stem the tide. but if we can hold the warming to less than two degrees celsius, we can accommodate for it. but if the warming reaches five to nine degrees celsius, the effects are catastrophic for our planet earth. dramatic and catastrophic effects are far more likely. through a series of incremental but somewhat aggressive policy steps, we can slow the change. the combustion of fossil fuel, coal, oil, and natural gas accounts for 78% of greenhouse
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gas emissions in our country today. most of the fossil fuel emissions come from the smokestacks of our power plants and the tailpipes of our vehicles. bottom line: to address climate change, we must take steps to use fossil fuel more efficiently, and we must initiate a shift away from fossil fuel where we can and toward cleaner alternatives. i believe we can attack this problem by establishing aggressive fuel economy standards to reduce emissions from the transportation sector, enabling a shift to renewable sources of power; lifting the emissions from stationery sources, especially -- excuse me, limiting the emissions from staigsarstationery sources, espy
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power plants; and most importantly, putting a price on heat-trapping carbon pollution. let me mention some steps we've taken, because we have begun a transition to a cleaner energy economy. the good news is that carbon dioxide emissions have dropped 12% since 2005, due in part to the policies we have adopted. one of my proudest achievements was working with senator snowe, inouye, stevens, cantwell, lott, dorgan, corker, carper, and many others in the 2007 ten-in-ten fuel economy act, raising the corporate average fuel economy known as cafe at the maximum achievable rate. well, let me tell you what these new standards meaning. they mean that we will have a
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fleetwide average of 54.5 miles per gallon in 2025. these standards will cut greenhouse gas emissions from cars and light trucks in half by 2025. reducing emissions by 6 million -- excuse me, 6 billion metric tons over the life of the program. more than the total amount of carbon dioxide emitted by the united states in 2010. better yet, these standards will save american families more than $1.7 trillion in fuel costs, resulting in average fuel savings of more than $8,000 per vehicle. and our legislation also directed the administration to establish the first-ever fuel economy standards for buses, delivery trucks, and longhaul 18
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wheelers. the first standards which apply to bus and trucks will reduce greenhouse gas pollution by approximately 270 metrictrons. i am very sorry that senator snowe isn't here today because i began this effort with a simple sense of the senate resolution in 1993 with senator slade gorton from washington, senator -- oh, i've -- my mind has just slipped his name -- the senator, i think, from nevada, and myself, and we couldn't get a simple statement passed. we then tried an s.u.v. loophole closer, which was to bring s.u.v.'s down to the mileage of sedans, and we couldn't do this.
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we then did the 10-in who have 10-- we then did the ten-in-ten and we didn't think it was going to go anywhere. and senator stevens and senator inouye put it in a commerce committee bill. senator stevens changed his view on it, put it in a commerce committee bill, and it swept through the senate and through the house, was signed by the president and is now the law today. today president obama has made completing cafe standards for trucks built after 2018 which are required by our 2007 law a key part of his climate action plan. power plants are our largest single source of greenhouse gas emissions. it's fair to say that federal tax incentives and financing, state mandates, federally funded research, and a dramatically
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improving permitting process have led to a recent shift away from coal fired power plants and toward renewable energy and lower-emission natural gas. additionally, renewable energy production has more than doubled since 2008 you, an, and it conto boom. this year -- excuse me, last year 4,751 megawatts of solar were installed nationwide. that's a 41% increase over the previous year. and power plant carbon dioxide emissions have dropped 17% since 2005. so the lesson here is clear: we must continue the policies that are working, such as the wind and geothermal production tax credits, the solar investment tax credit, and a
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project-permitting process that advances projects undisturbed and less sensitive lands expeditiously. but we must also take longer steps to ensure that power plant emissions continue to drop. i support the president's plan to use clean air act authorities to limit greenhouse gas emissions. the supreme court's landmark global warming case, massachusetts v. e.p.a., found that these gases are pollutants with a potential to endanger human health and welfare, and president obama and the e.p.a. have an obligation to comply with these directives to limit such emissions. so i very much look forward to the president advancing a strong rule that will use market-based mechanisms. i also believe that congress could act to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from power plants by putting an explicit price on
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pollution. and it's taken me a long time to get there, approximately 20 years. i supported various other mechanisms and will continue to support, but i am convinced, based on information by the department of energy, that a fee on greenhouse gas emissions from power plants starting at only $10 per ton could reduce emissions 70% to 80% by 2050 if the fee steadily increases over time. this is the emissions reduction level experts say is necessary to stablize the climate at less than two degrees celsius warmer than today. if we can do this, we save the planet earth.
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if the climate goes five to nine degrees warmer by the end of the century, we've lost. such a fee could be responsive to emissions performance. if emissions were falling consistent with science-based emissions targets, the fee would not have to go up every year. it is estimated that a fee on power plant emissions would be nearly as effective in reducing heat-trapping emissions as an economywide fee. the difference is 2%. so both policies deserve consideration. such a fee would provide industry with cost certainty, and the revenues exceeding $20 billion annually could help address our nation's debt. they should go back to the general fund. the revenue could finance other important national priorities, such as tax reform, income
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inequality, energy research, development. an m.i.t. study found that if the fee revenues were used to cut other taxes or maintain spending for social programs -- let me quote from this -- "the economy will be better off with the carbon fee than if we have to keep other taxes high or cut programs to ru to rein in the dt deficit." end quote. let me conclude. science has clearly shown that the planet is warming and now at a faster rate than ever. we know that. now, we as leaders must make a choice. do we act? do relead? do we tackle the -- do we lead? do we tackle the problem? or do we wait until it's too late? do we continue the progress we've made on fuel economy by taking on other large emitters? ambassadoemitters or do we simply claim it's impossible, we can't do anything
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about it? do we blame the problem on china? china has a big problem. do we deny undeniable facts due to current politics? i believe we have an obligation to lead. and there's no question it's difficult. and there's no question that there are hard choices. but we have an obligation to control our own pollution. our nation has the opportunity to demonstrate to the rest of the world that it can be done. and tonight shows that there are some leaders. i want to thank senator boxer, senator whitehouse, senator markey, senator schatz for their leadership, not only on this evening but for the years they have led on this issue. so let's get it done. and before -- before i end this
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speech, i would like to note that the young man sitting next to me, my legislative assistant, is leaving to go and work for the department of energy, and he has worked on fuel efficiency standards, climate chairntion -- climate change, energy, transportation and a number of other issues. so, matt nelson, i want you to know that your expertise, your eyunique compass 00nique capaciy and dedication will be missed. thank you, madam president. mr. whitehouse: madam president, i thank the distinguished senator from california for her speech. and for those who know of her history with this issue and her leadership on pollution issues over many years, this was an important speech. this was an important speech. and i thank the senator very much.
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before we turn to senator boxer, i wanted to say a few things about the comments that the senator from oklahoma made earlier in an effort, i suppose, to suggest that this climate change thing is not all that we shake it up to be. the first point that he made was about a group of emails that came out of east anglia university which the climate denier university seized on and nicknamed climategate, as if cliek watergate there was a big scandal in those emails. there were some probably not entirely appropriate things that were said in the emails, but the question is was the science underlying it affected or compromised in any way?
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well, so-called climategate was actually looked at over and over and over again, because it was at the university of east anglia, the university of east anglia did an investigation. because it involved scientists at penn state, penn state did an investigation. both of those universities gave a complete clean bill of health to the underlying science that was at the basis of this. the house of commons, british house of commons did its investigation. that's how much fuss the deniers kicked up about this, and they same back and said nothing wrong with the science there, nothing wrong with the science. the u.s. environmental protection agency and the national science foundation of the united states of america
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also did investigations, as did the inspector general of the department of commerce, and 3-3, those investigations came back as well saying if they didn't say anything inappropriate, nothing wrong with the science. so after all that, after six published reviews whose results confirmed that there was nothing wrong with the science as a result of these emails, for people to continue to come to the floor and to suggest that the email change revealed some flaw in the data or some flaw in the science, it just -- it's untrue. it's as simple as that. it's just not true. in fact, if you really wanted to nickname this properly, you would actually call it climate gategate because the real scandal here is the phony scandal that was whipped up about these emails when the
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underlying science has been confirmed by every single investigation that followed. so so much for climategate or climategategate, more properly said. he also indicated that because the i.p.c. report had said that the himalayan glaciers were retreating and that they weren't, that there was obviously something wrong with the science. well, let's start with some glaciers. let's start closer to home. this is grinnell glacier in montana. here's what it looked like in 1940. that's all snow. here's what it looked like in 2004. it's melted down to this little puddle of snow and ice. we are indeed losing our glaciers. have a look in washington at lillian glacier in washington's olympic national park.
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this is in 1905. look at the size of that glacier there. and here it is, the same bowl virtually dried of snow. glacier gone. so the fact that glaciers are disappearing is something that people see in front of them all around the world. all you have to do is go to mountains with glaciers and look. i went with chairman boxer to the big glaciers of greenland and you can see the glaciers retreat. you can measure the increased speed as the ice moves more rapidly out -- down and out to sea because of the melt. now, the question of the himalayan glaciers has also been reviewed, and here is what a recent article in nature said. the tibetan plateau and surroundings contain the largest number of glaciers outside polar
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regions. these glaciers are at the headwaters of many prominent asian rivers and are largely experiencing shrinkage. which is exactly what one would expect from the science of climate change. now, the national academy of sciences just did a report on this very subject about six months ago, and here is a quote on that report. it says the report examines how changes to glaciers in the hindu kusch himalayan region which covers eight countries across asia could affect the area's river systems, water supplies and the south asian population. the mountains in the region form the headwaters of several major river systems, including the ganges and yellow rivers which serve as sources of drinking water and irrigation supplies for roughly 1.5 billion people. so this matters. the irrigation and drinking water for 1.5 billion people is nothing to laugh about.
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here is the conclusion. the entire himalayan climate is changing. but how climate change will impact specific places remains unclear, said the committee that wrote the report. the eastern himalayas and tibetan plateau are warming, and the trend is more pronounced at higher elevations. models suggest that desert, dust and black carbon, a component of soot, could contribute to the rapid atmospheric warming, accelerated snow pack melting and glacier retreat. the senator also mentioned the cost of a carbon fee. just to make the record completely clear, i would propose a carbon fee whose every
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dollar of revenue, whose every dollar of revenue was returned to the american people. if as a result of a carbon fee you end up paying more on your energy bill somewhere, every dollar of that should come back to the american people. it could come back in the form of a check to the head of a family. it could come back in the form of lower tax rates. it could come back in a variety of ways, and i hope soon we are actually having that discussion. but don't think that there is any need for this to be a net cost to the economy. every dollar can go back to the american people. and because of the nature of this tax, it's actually probably more efficient than others so it should create economic lift for a net economic gain if you're truly offsetting the revenues. so i reject the proposition that this would create a cost. it will be easy to design it in such a way that it's actually a
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net improvement. finally, i will agree with something that senator inhofe said. he said that this has to be international, and indeed it does have to be international. india has a vote. they have a lot of power plants. china has a lot of power plants. they have to work together. but we can do that. america can lead in the world, and if the others are slow to come, we can erect tax adjustments at our border that protect us and our products. we can make this happen. we should. the last is the job loss claims. well, if you go back through the history of regulation of big industries, every time you roll something out, they say it's going to be a huge economic disaster. they said that about fixing the ozone layer. they said that about the clean air act. they said that about the clean water act. in fact, in some cases, like the clean air act, subsequent
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reviews showed that the amount that's saved from not being polluted exceeds the cost of compliance by as much as 30-1. why would we not want a deal like that, particularly where the costs of climate change are going to be so severe? he said it's important to look at what's happened since the original ipcc report. here is what happened since the original ipcc report. they have doubled down. they are even more sure than they were of their findings and of the importance of climate change. other scientific organizations like noaa have chimed in in unflinching language. now, noaa, i happen to have a lot of respect for. if you can put a vehicle the size of an s.u.v. up out of our atmosphere into orbit, send it to mars, land it safely on mars and then drive it around, i
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think there is a pretty safe bet that you have got some good scientists who know what they're talking about, and i will put them up against the scientists paid for by the polluters every day, and i see other people here who are waiting to speak, so i will yield the floor first to chairman boxer. mrs. boxer: thank you very much, madam president. the presiding officer: the senator from california. mrs. boxer: i want to thank senator whitehouse and schatz for their leadership. we are now about 30 minutes behind, so i will take up to 30 minutes and then followed by senator franken, is my understanding. madam president, i have been on this floor for -- since early this evening, and it's very clear that deniers are standing with 3% of the scientists while we democrats who are here tonight calling for action are standing with 97% of the scientists. and as i mentioned before, every
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time the republicans call a so-called expert to the environment and public works committee, i track their past and they seem to be tied to the oil industry or the major polluters. that's just a fact. and i'm going to talk a little bit later about what has happened and why this suddenly has become a bitter partisan fight. it never used to be. it never used to be, but it is, and it's wrong. no one party can -- can put together the votes needed. we have to share responsibility. and that is critical. people said to me, the press, what is the point of this all nighter, and i said very simply the senate climate action task force, which has membership of getting to 30% of the senate, we want to wake up the congress to
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the fact that time is running out. we have to act now. we have to do everything we can, legislatively in every way. and the good news here -- and there is some good news. it has nothing to do with the senate. it's all bad news for the senate, frankly, but the good news is we have a president who gets this and who is moving forward with a climate action plan. now, i am sorry to say every step he takes we have people trying to repeal what he's doing, and so far we have beat back those naysayers and those voices of the polluters, but i wanted to say tonight one of the major functions of the senate climate action task force is not just rallying around the scientists and calling attention to climate change, but it is
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clearly to play defense when we see attempts to roll back the president's plan. and i have to tell you we have already seen a c.r.a. it stands for congressional review act. that's in the works to overturn what the president is trying to do to clean up coal-fired plants. before they even finished the rule, senator mcconnell is talking about a way to repeal it before it's even been put in place. i do not understand this -- well, i understand it, but it's wrong. we have to stand up for our families. and as i said in my earlier remarks, if you saw any member of your family or any one of your constituents standing in the way of a disaster, say an
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oncoming car, you would do everything in your power, everything in your power to save that constituent or that family member. well, we are facing an out-of- control problem here with our climate. it's out of control. if we don't wrap our arms around it, we will have catastrophic warming, and it's already started, and it will lead to horrible pain and suffering, whether it's heat waves and deaths -- we've already seen that in europe -- horrible floods and fires, and colleagues from new mexico and colorado have talked about that. i could tell you more about fires in my state. never seen anything like it, mr. president. we've seen droughts. but all of this was predicted by the scientists back in the early
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199 1990's. i capital believe that's 20 years ago they told us. and i think up to this point, i think we have proven the point that deniers are standing with 3% of the scientists in every major scientific organization has more deaths to add. one of my colleagues, senator inhofe, came down and said oh, it's snowing, it's cold. it's called extreme weather. that's what they predicted. that vortex up in the arctic. we're feeling the impacts of the weakened jet stream, and we're seeing these terrible temperatures in an extreme fashion hit the lower 48 states, some of which never have had it before. we've seen with our very own eyes snow in places like atlanta, people stuck on highways, no one knew what to do because it's never really happened before.
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so i think we have made the clear case, mr. president, and i say to my colleague, senator schatz, who's worked so hard with senator whitehouse to put this together, we have proven the point i believe that we stand with science in the mainstream and our colleagues, most of whom haven't even come to the floor to debate us, are standing with the extreme. and, frankly, with the special polluting interests. now, after they get done with denying, they have a fallback position and they say, well, even if you believe there's climate change, we shouldn't act until china acts. mr. president, since when does the greatest country on earth sit back and allow china to lead us out of a climate change impending disaster? since when do we cede that
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authority? and i want to talk a little bit about that. all you have to do is take a look at china to see what happens to a country that throws the environment under a bus. let's take a look at some of the people in china and -- and what it looks like. mr. president, these are people on their bicycles. you can't see anything around them. they have masked on. we're going to wait for china to lead us out of the climate change problem? i don't think so. i don't think so. i went to china on a very interesting trip with leader reid a couple of years ago. we were there for a good 10 days. we really saw the country. it's fascinating, a lot of interesting things, a lot of
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interesting transportation going on there and is s so on. we never saw the sun, never. one day the sun was behind the smog and the guy that was with us said, what a beautiful day. i said, no, it's not. this is terrible. we went to the american embassy. they have a -- a measuring tool there that tells them how dirty the air is. it's a hazardous duty post. people are there with their ki kids. they're told, don't go out, it's too dangerous. china has hazardous levels of pollution and toxic emissions which has had very harmful effects on the chinese people. we're supposed to wait for china to clean up carbon pollution? i don't think so. according to a scientific study from the health effect institu
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institute, outdoor air pollution contributed to 1.2 million premature deaths in china in 2010 alone. this is not fiction. this is fact. and we have voices on the republican side of the aisle who were begging us, don't do anything on carbon pollution until china acts. air pollution was their fourth-leading risk factor for deaths in china. now, the threat is expected to get worse. urban air pollution is set to become the top environmental cause of mortality worldwide by 2050, ahead of dirty water and lack of sanitation. it's estimated that up to 3.6 million people could end up dying prematurely from air pollution each year, mostly in
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china and india. think about that. oh, yes, you'll hear our colleagues say, china and india, too. i'll tell ya, i represent a great state, a very large state with 38 million people. we are on the cutting edge of a clean environment. we are tackling carbon pollution. we are seeing great jobs be developed in solar, wind, geothermal. we are going to have a third of our electricity generation come from clean sources by 2020. i'm so proud of my state. and the special interests came in there and they tried to repeal all of our laws that had to do with cleaning up carbon pollution, and the people, even though they were faced with millions of dollars in oil company ads, said no.
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said no. so the people who say, a, this isn't real, we've disproven that already. i've put in the record the names of every organization you could think of that if you ask the american people, they would say we respect those organizations. so that's out. and then when they say, wait for china, that's out. yeah. in january, the u.s. embassy issued warnings to china citizens that the air quality in beijing was so bad it exceeded the upper limits of its measurements and the exposure to fine soot was many times above what the world health organization considered hazardous. they call it an air-pocolyps. it forced the china authorities for to have close highways because the visibility was so
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bad. and this goes on in cities across china. in harbin, a woman said, "i couldn't see anything outside the window. i thought it was snowing." then she realized it wasn't snow, it was dangerous toxic smog. that's what the people are living with. they're beside themselves. they walk around with masks. they can't go out. they're suffering and dying. and this is the country that my colleagues say we ought to wait for before we tackle climate change? you've got to be kidding me. this is an embarrassment. citizens of harbin could see only 10 yards in front of them because small particle pollution soared to a record 40 times higher than international standards. and, by the way, the cost of environmental degradation in china was about $230 billion in 2010 or 3.5% of the nation's gross domestic product.
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and we know that superstorm sandy cost us about $60 billion. $60 billion. one storm. so when you talk about the economic impact of putting a price on carbon polluters who are polluting this country, put that into the context of what happens if you let them continue polluting. superstorm sandy, we all lived through it, we all saw what happened. i've seen the fires in california. we've seen them in new mexico. we've seen them in colorado. we know the costs that come. we havwe've seen the drought. the president was out there. thank god he came out there to give some money. do you know that our ranchers were destroying their cattle, killing their cattle because there was no feed? the president came out there and he made sure that emergency help was delivered so they could buy
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feed for those cattle. so when people say it's going to cost a lot, if we solve climate change, i beg them to think about the costs if we do nothing. look at china. they did nothing about clean air and they're paying the price -- premature deaths, lost productivity, people miserable. so here's the thing. we learned a long time ago that stepping up to an environmental challenge pays off. decades ago the u.s. experienced damage and degradation, tremendous damage, to our environment. the cuyahoga river in ohio was on fire. massive air pollution hung over our cities. and lakes were dying from pollution. the american people demanded
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action, and guess what? we didn't wait for china to act or india to act or anybody else to act. we came together as democrats and republicans and we said, this isn't appropriate. president nixon helped on the environment. president george herbert walker bush helped on the environment. jimmy carter helped on the environment. bill clinton helped on the environment. and barack obama is helping on the environment. but now it has become a partisan issue. clean air act, back in 1970 and strengthened in 1990. in 1990 -- since 1990, the u.s. has cut fine particulate emissions -- those are the emissions that get into your lungs and cause all of our problems. we have cut those particulates
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since 1990 by 57%. because democrats and republicans came together. now republicans want to repeal all that but we won't let them. but fine particulate emissions is what's making the chinese people sick. in 1976, there were 166 days when health advisories were issued in southern california to urge people with asthma and other people with lung sensitivities to stay indoors. 1976. and the american people said no, no, no, isn't this right. and the people of california said, this is terrible. 166 days that i can't go out and breathe the air and take a walk and take my kids out? by 2010, because of the action taken by democrats and republicans working together to
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pass the clean air act and carry it out, the number of smog-related health advisories in 2010 in southern california dropped to, drum roll, zero days. zero days. so anyone who stands here and says, oh, this problem is too big; i can't wrap my arms around it. china has to act. india has to act. no, no, no. that's not america. we have brilliant people in this country with great technological skill. we see in many of our states -- and i'm so proud of mine -- the latest technica technologies top the air, to clean up the water, to make cars fuel efficient. and my friend, senator feinstein, spoke about that. and i'm so pleased we have done that. and president obama is now applying it to trucks. we're literally saving lives because we know outdoor air pollution causes cancer.
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we know that. and let me just tell you what the national climate assessment -- that's our country -- what we're saying about climate change. mr. president -- quote -- "climate change threatens human health and well-being in many ways, including impacts from increased extreme weather events, wildfires, decreased air quality, diseases transmitted by insects, food and water, and some of these impacts are already underway in the united states." so clearly, clearly we have proven tonight that we stand with science. we're not scientists but we are humble before the science. and we know that our nation has shown great leadership in the environmental movement for years starting all the way back to the 1970's when that river caught on
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fire and we said, what are we doing to our planet. we should not and we must not wait for other countries to act. we must take action now. that's the purpose of the senate climate action task force. and i am so proud of my colleagues who are here tonight who come to those meetings every thursday. and we have meetings on tuesday that ed markey is leading us on, which is the clearinghouse, which is more of a think tank to bring the experts in. and we listen and we question them. and then on thursday, we meet with the task force. and members of the task force speak to the democratic caucus. and i want to say to harry reid, if he's listening, how much i appreciate his leadership on this. he is seeing some of the horrible impacts of climate
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change in his great state. and his state, they really are leaders in alternative clean energy. moving away from coal toward clean energy. creating jobs, good-paying jobs. because when we put a price on carbon, then the dirty industries start to pay for the pollution they're causing and that will move us toward clean energy. and when we move to clean energy, we'll see a tremendous difns in the amount of carbon pollution in the air -- difference in the amount of carbon pollution in the air. and wre we will be able to divet the most dire predictions of climate -- which is seven degrees fahrenheit. that will literally change the face of the way america lives. we have it in our hands. tonight we're saying, wake up
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congress, please. wake up. and to my colleague from oklahoma, who is nigh friend, senator inhofe, who said, you guys are just talking to each other. good luck, good night. i got to say -- i'm frowd say more than 100,000 people have so far called petitions calling on congress to act. and this is just earl will i in the evening. we're going to be going another almost 11 hours. to senator whitehouse and sno -- and senator schatz, i say thank you for organizin organizing th. it is a little like herding cats, getting us all here. but it is working because senators here get it. they know that they're going to be here for a finite time. and when you get a challenge like this, you stand up to it. you find the solutions and you fight for them, and you fight for the people of this great nation. thank you so much,
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mr. president. i yield the floor. mr. franken: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from minnesota. mr. franken: thank you, mr. president. thank you, senator boxer. thank you, senator schatz and senator whitehouse for organizing this. first, mr. president, i would like to ask unanimous consent that samuel bachenhower, a fellow in my office, be granted floor privileges for the remainder of the 113th congress. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. franken: mr. president, i rise tonight to talk about climate change, along with 25 to 30 of my colleagues who will be speaking through the night. the recent extreme weather events that we've experienced across the united states are a call to action. we in this body need to not just talk about climate change but to take action to address it. if we fail to act, the extreme
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weather events we have seen will only grow more extreme in the future. this winter has been exceptionally cold in many areas of the united states, including minnesota. some deniers have taken this as a sign that climate change isn't happening. they have pointed to the cold weather as evidence that global warming is not occurring. but they're missing the point. we already know that, on average, the earth is warming. this isn't -- isn't complicated. we have been using thermometers to make measurements around the globe for a long time, and we know that average temperatures have gone up significantly in recent years. but climate change isn't just about the average temperature. as the average temperature continues to rise, most experts agree that we will see ever-more frequent extreme weather events
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-- droughts, storms, floods, and other extreme events. it is important to remember that we're not attributing any one event to climate change, but we can say that there will be more extreme weather events as the earth grows warmer. as you know, mr. president, we've seen the polar vortex bring arctic weather to much of the united states during this winter. according to white house science advisor dr. gong holdren, we can expect to see more of this as global warming continues. as this will have serious consequences. it already has. in my home state of minnesota, extreme cold has contributed to a very serious propane shortage. many rural residents are unable to properly heat their homes. turkey growers are finding it difficult to heat their barns and, therefore, their turkeys. and this is not just a problem
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in minnesota. other areas of the country have been affected. we in the senate have to talk about what's happening and start taking action in the face of climate change threats. the ongoing drought in california and other states is another example. the situation is particularly grave in california, where vast regions have been classified as d-4, which is the most severe drought category. this has cost farmers their crops and livestock and created severe water shortages for residents and businesses. farmers have had to stop farming half a million acres of what normally is irrigated land. that is about 6% of the entire state of california. according to the california farm water coalition, it's already costing that state $5 billion. these costs get passed on to every american. as a result of this drought, americans have to -- have paid
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more and will continue to pay more for groceries this winter. unfortunately, droughts like this are becoming commonplace. in 2012, drought caused more than 70% of u.s. counties to be declared disaster areas. the national oceanic and atmospheric administration estimated that the drough droug' economic impact to be $30 billion. the drought destroyed or damaged major crops all over this country, making corn and soybeans more expensive and increasing animal feed costs. americans paid more for meats and other animal-based products because of drought. in the midwest, the 2012 drought dramatically lowered water levels in the mississippi river, seriously interfering with our ability to transport our agricultural goods to market to compete with those from other
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countries. so that barges wouldn't run aground, shippers sent them down the mississippi only half full -- let's say, soybeans. this made minnesota soybeans less competitive with brazilian beans. climate change is also exacertificate bathe our nation's wide -- exacerbating our nation's wildfires, as we heard senator wyden described in his state. when tom tidwell testified in 2012 before the senate energy committee, i asked him about the link between climate change and forest fires. he told us that throughout the country we're seeing longer fire seasons. more than two months longer compared to fire seasons in the 1970's. wildfires are also larger and more intense. i asked chief tidwell whether scientists at the forest service
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thought that climate change was causing this increase in the size and intensity of wildfires and extending their season, and without hesitation he said "yes" -- "yes." the forest service is spending more and more fighting wildfires. now about half of its entire budget. longer fire seasons and larger, more intense fires are going to eat up more and more of that budget. in addition to these wildfires, especially ones that occur at the wildland urban interface, are increasingly threatening homes and property. most importantly, mr. president, more intense fires are costing lives. the 19 brave firefighters who perished in arizona last june should be a reminder of the gravity of this issue. and, of course, mr. president,
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we cannot talk about climate change without talking about sea level rise. as i said, i serve on the committee on energy and naturall resources. in 2012, i attended a hearing on sea level rise and heard testimony about how rising sea levels is increasing the flood zones and increasing damage from flood surges. we heard testimony about how rising sea levels are increasing the size of flood zones. and one example they used, they said that is possibility that a few inches of sea level rise would result in a storm surge that could flood the new york city subway system. it sounded like something out of science fiction.
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yet six months later, that's exactly what happened when hurricane sandy hit new york city and flooded the subways. and my colleagues do not need to be reminded of the cost of hurricane sandy. it cost taxpayers a staggering $60 billion. so when people talk about the harmful consequences of climate change and its costs in terms of homes and dollars and lives, they are not talking about some far-off future problem. climate change is already hurting us. unfortunately, mr. president, only one of my colleagues from the other side of the aisle -- the ranking member of the energy and natural resources committee, senator murkowski from alaska -- attended that hearing. this has been pretty much the case whenever we have a hearing that even tangentially relates
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to climate change. a number of my colleagues in congress don't believe that human activity is contributing to climate change. many others, i suspect, don't talk about climate change because addressing it requires that we make some difficult choices. this is despite the fact that even some of the major fossil fuel companies that previously funded anticlimate change efforts have turned the page on this issue. exxonmobil -- exxonmobil used to fund the heartland institute, one of the leading organizations spreading climate change denial propaganda. but if you go to exson mobile's web site -- exon mobile's web site today, it states "rising greenhouse gas emissions pose significant risk to society and ecosystems." that's exxonmobil.
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shell oil constituents "co2 emissions must be reduces to avoid serious climate change." that's shell oil. so even if the major oil and gas companies have begun to acknowledge that climate change is real. i would respectfully suggest that my colleagues on the other side of the aisle here in congress also need to engage in a serious conversation on climate change. at a time when americans are dealing with record droughts and other extreme weather events, the senate cannot forward simply to -- afford simply to ignore climate change. and ultimately we have to come together to start addressing climate change before its damage and cost to society gets out of control. i know this is not going to be easy, mr. president. some will point out that climate change is a global problem,
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sometimes called global climate change. and that we can't solve it alone. and they're right. emissions in the developing world are on the rise. china now surpasses the u.s. in total greenhouse gas emissions. but china is also starting to wake up to its serious pollution problem. in fact, at the opening of the annual meeting of its parliament last week, the chinese premier stated that his country is declaring a war on pollution. overcoming pollution challenges will require china to invest heavily in renewable and other environmentally friendly technologies, and it's going to make the global clean energy race even more competitive. if we are going to win this race and create good-paying jobs for americans, we have to invest in clean energy, and we know that government investment in energy
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can pay off. take the example of natural gas. we are currently experiencing a natural gas boom in this country. sometimes my colleagues forget that this boom happened, in large part, because of years of federal support to develop hydraulic fracturing technology. the eastern gas shale project was an initiative the federal government began back in 1976, before hydraulic fracturing was a mature industry. the project set up and funded dozens of pilot demonstration projects with universities and private gas companies that tested drilling and fracturing methods. thithis investment by the federl government was instrumental in the development of the commercial extraction of natural gas from shale. in fact, microseismic imagery, a critical tool used in fracking,
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was originally developed by sandia national laboratory, a federal energy laboratory. the industry was also supported through tax breaks and subsidies. in fact, mitchell energy vice president dan stewart said in an interview that mitchell energy's first horizontal well was subsidized by the federal government. mr. mitchell said, and i quote - "d.o.e., that's the department of energy, d.o.e. started it, and other people took the ball and ran with it. you cannot diminish d.o.e.'s involvement." this is from one of the pioneers of horizontal drilling. you cannot diminish d.o.e.'s involvement. so the basis of the natural gas revolution that is helping make america more energy independent can be traced back to federal research and federal support.
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and in the same way, we have to support the renewable energy sector now. we have -- we have to be the ones who will develop these technologies and the ones who sell them to other nations. we need to lead the world in clean energy innovation. at the moment, we're not doing enough. last year, the senate energy committee heard testimony regarding a report from the american energy innovation council entitled catalyzeing ingenuity. the report authored by bill gates, microsoft, former lockheed martin c.e.o. norman augustine and other business leaders states, and i quote -- "the country is yet to embark on a clean energy program commensurate with the scale of the national priorities that are at stake. in fact, rather than improve the
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country's energy innovation program and invest in strategic national interests, the current political environment is creating strong pressure to pull back from such efforts, unquote. the report is a wake-up call and makes a convincing case for why government needs to support innovation in the energy sector. unfortunately, it's been difficult for congress to pass comprehensive clean energy legislation, even though this is an essential prerequisite if we are going to win the global clean energy race. the good news, mr. president, is that many individual states, which really are the laboratories of our democracy have gone forward with their own clean energy programs. as chair of the energy subcommittee on the energy and natural resources committee, i recently held a hearing on
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lessons from state energy programs. among the innovative programs developed by many states are goals and mandates for renewable energy production as well as for increased energy efficiency of government and commercial buildings. mr. president, you probably know this because you're senator merkley and you know -- you know a lot, so you probably know this, but over half the states have renewable portfolio standards. these states are -- their standards are improving the air, creating jobs, growing the economy. my home state of minnesota is one of the leaders in this area. we have a 25-by-25 renewable portfolio standard in place, which means that 25% of the
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state's electricity must come from renewable sources by the year 2025. excel energy, minnesota's largest utility, is following an even more ambitious plan of generating over 30% renewable energy by the year 2020, and they are on track to do that. i believe that the federal government should follow what the states are already doing and put a comprehensive and long-term clean energy plan in place. one of the issues we discussed in my subcommittee was the upcoming e.p.a. rules to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from existing coal-fired plants. i know that a number of my colleagues are concerned about these regulations and argue that they will increase the costs of electricity, especially in areas that are heavily dependent on coal and coal-fired plants. i understand these concerns. i believe these regulations should be crafted using common sense.
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for example, if you give flexibility to states to implement these regulations, you can allow power plant operators to offset their emissions by investing in energy efficiency in homes and buildings. buildings consume about 36%, 37% of the energy in this country. if you retrofit our buildings, you will get the same environmental result at a lower cost to power plant owners, and just as important, you will unleash energy efficiency manufacturing and installation jobs throughout the country. it will reduce our energy use. it will benefit the environment and send a signal throughout the business sector that we are serious about deploying long-term energy-efficient solutions. that's why noresco, a major energy service company that testified at my hearing was a strong proponent of this
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proposal. in fact, we learned during my hearing that there was a universal agreement among witnesses, both democratic and republican witnesses, that giving states more flexibility to implement these regulations would be a good thing. so when we talk about taking on climate change, let's start with what we can all agree on. let's do that stuff first. let's do shaheen-portman. mr. president, the stakes are simply too high to ignore this issue. we can't leave it to future generations. last year, my first grandchild, joe, was born. i don't want to look back in 20 years and tell joe that when we are in a position to do something about climate change, we chose not to because it involved some difficult choices.
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now, joe is going to live through this century and god willing into the next. unless we act now, his generation will pay a very high price for our inaction, tonight, throughout the night you're going to be hearing about that. you're going to be hearing about the department of defense's research into this and the costs that we will pay for addressing -- when we have to address this. i don't want to have my grandson think of me long after i'm gone and ask why didn't we do anything to address climate change while we could? so, mr. president, ininvite my -- i invite my colleagues
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from both sides of the aisle, both sides to join in this endeavor. we really owe it to the nation and we owe it to future generations. thank you, mr. president. i yield the floor. mr. sanders: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from vermont. mr. sanders: thank you, mr. president. mr. president, i seek unanimous consent that two science policy fellows from my office, anna mabus and melissa holtmyer, be granted floor privileges throughout the end of the session. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. sanders: i want to thank them as well as my environmental policy advisor, jacob smith, for all of the hard work that they have done on this important issue.
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i also as i begin want to thank senator boxer for her wonderful leadership of the environment committee and for her strong activism regarding climate change, and i want to thank senator whitehouse and senator schatz as well for organizing this important discussion tonight. mr. president, the scientific community has been extremely clear, no debate. climate change is real. climate change is man made, and climate change is already causing severe damage in terms of drought, floods, forest fires, rising sea levels and extreme weather disturbances. given that reality, i find it extremely disturbing that virtually all -- not all but virtually all of my republican
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colleagues continue to ignore the scientific evidence and refuse to support serious legislation which will address this planetary crisis. my hope is that my small state of vermont will be a national leader, will be a model for the rest of the country. transforming our energy system, moving us away from fossil fuels and into energy efficiency and sustainable energy. and doing that, by the way, will not only help the united states become a leader in reversing climate change but can over a period of years create millions of good-paying jobs in this country, and that has got to be the goal. now, mr. president, some people ask -- many people ask, they say well, why aren't you guys doing anything on this issue?
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the scientific community is almost unanimous about the causation of climate change or about its severity. what are you doing? and let me answer that by just very briefly reading an exchange that took place on the floor of the senate on april 11, 2013. and let me preface my remarks by saying that senator jim inhofe of oklahoma is a friend of mine. i like jim inhofe. he is an honest person, straightforward person, but on this issue, he is dead, dead wrong. and this is the exchange that took place on april 11, 2013. i was on the floor, and this is what i said. i said what senator inhofe has written -- and he has published a book on this issue -- what senator inhofe has written and talked about is his belief that global warming is one of the major hoaxes ever perpetrated on
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the american people. that it's a hoax pushed by people like al gore, united nations and the hollywood elite. and then senator inhofe was here on the floor and i said i think that is a fair quote from senator inhofe, is that roughly right, senator inhofe, and he was right here. senator inhofe said yes. i would add to that -- add to that list, moveon.org, george soros, michael moore and a few others, end of quote. so that is where we are. we have a gentleman, again, a very honest, decent man who i like, former chair of the environmental committee, former ranking member of the environmental committee who believes that global warming is a hoax pushed by people like al gore of the united nations and the hollywood elite. so when people ask me why we are not doing anything, i would say
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that that is pretty much the reason. let me respond to that, mr. inhofe's views by saying the following. climate change is real and there is no longer a scientific debate about that. in the words of the u.s. global change research program, which includes e.p.a., nasa, the national science foundation and the departments of defense, energy, state, health, interior, transportation and commerce, i quote, global warming is unequivocal and primarily human induced, end of quote. that is not my view. that is not senator boxer's view. it is not senator schatz's view. that is the view of the u.s. global change research program, which includes some of the major
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agencies of the united states government. and by the way, clearly it is not just the united states government or agencies that believe that. there are agencies representing virtually every country on earth who have come to the same conclusion. now, when some people say, mr. president, well, there is debate, the evidence is not yet clear. the scientific community is not quite sure, let me clear the air on that one. according to a study published in the journal environmental research letters in may of last year, more than 97% of the peer-reviewed scientific literature on climate supports the view that human activity is a primary cause of global warming. i believe i read yesterday that the minority leader, senator mcconnell of kentucky, was saying well, for every person that believes that climate change is real, there is another person who disagrees. well, the polling indicates that's not quite accurate, but
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what is really important is not what this person feels or what that person feels. it is what those people who have studied the issue extensively believe. that really is what matters, and for those people, the 97% of the peer-reviewed scientific literature on this issue, they say very clearly that climate change is real and that human activity is a primary cause of global warming. and i'm reminded, i think senator boxer made this pointed awhile ago. the debate we're having right now is very reminiscent about the debate we had 30 or 40 years ago about the role tobacco plays in cancer and emphysema and heart conditions and so forth. and we had people, well funded by the tobacco institutes, coming before the american people, putting ads on television saying, you know, smoking is okay. there is no evidence linking smoking to cancer.
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well, they were wrong, as a matter of fact, and many of these people were being funded by the tobacco institute. and i think we are in the same position now. a lot of the information, the misinformation that is coming forward is funded by the fossil fuel industry and we should be clear about that. is there still a scientific debate about anything related to climate? what's the debate? well, the only remaining scientific debates are about just how devastating climate change will be. and of that, the scientists are not sure of that result and there is a disagreement, are we on track for a two-degree change by the end of the century? will the planet warm up by two degrees? will it warm up by four degrees? will it warm up by six degrees? people are not exactly sure. but they are certainly sure that it will warm up.
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will sea levels rise by one fo foot? will they rise by three feet, by four feet? again, scientists are not clear. but they are absolutely clear that sea levels will rise. mr. president, as a result of industrial greenhouse -- as a result of industrial greenhouse gas emissions, earth's climate warmed more between 1971 and 2000 than during any other three-decade interval in the last 1400 years, reports a paper in the journal "nature and geoscience," based on research conducted by 78 scientists from 24 nations, analyzing climate data from fre tree rings, polle, and historical records from around the sea. the globe has already warmed
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1 1/2-degree fahrenheit from 1880 to 2012. and the vast majority of that warming, 1.1 degree fahrenheit, has happened since 1950. according to noaa, november 2013 was the hottest november on record. 2012 was the warmest year on record in the contiguous united states and saw at least 69,000 local heat records set. 2013 was the fourth warmest year ever recorded since 1880. mr. president, the world bank, no bastion of left-leaning environmental thinking, is among those expressing its grave concern about the trends. the world bank concluded that limiting the global temperature increase to two degrees centigrade might allow us to keep sea level rise by 2100 to
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less than 2.3 feet. unfortunately, the world bank also acknowledges that we are on track for a four-degree sent great increase, which would result -- centigrade increase, which would result in extreme heat waves and life-threatening sea level rise. mr. president, since 1901, global sea level has risen about 7 1/2 inches and it is getting worse. over the last 20 years, seas have been rising nearly twice as fast. all over the world, glaciers and ice packs are melting. glaciers in the mount everest region have shrunk by 13% in the last 50 years. glaciers on mount kill man area is row have already -- mount killamanjero have shrunk. greenland ice sheets have lost ice rates of 60 cubic miles per year between 22 and 2211.
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this is about six times faster than the ice was melting during the decade before that. all of these impacts and more can be traced directly to carbon emissions and their effects on the atmosphere. mr. president, in 2013, as you well know, we witnessed an ominous milestone. the daily mean concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere surpassed 400 parts per million. the last time co2 levels were this high was probably between 2.2 million and 3.6 million years ago. when it was so farm that there were forests in greenland. now, mr. president, what does climate change mean? what are the consequences of global warming? how is climate change already
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impacting our lives? not in five years, not in 50 years but right now? for one thing, climate change is making droughts in the western united states and in other parts of the world more severe, longer lasting, and more frequent. scientists expect that precipitation patterns will continue shifting, expanding the geographic extent of the dry subtropics leading to warmer and drier weather, which then causes air temperatures to increase ever more -- even more. this helps explain why -- why drought-stricken texas saw the hottest summer ever recorded for a u.s. state in 2011, leading to a combination of drought and wildfire costing $10 billion in damage and the drought continues. as of last month, texas had only received 68% of its normal
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rainfall between 2011-2013 and reservoirs are at their lowest level since 1990. but it is not -- and we should be very clear about this -- when we talk about global warming, we are talking about the globe, the global community. not just the united states, not just texas, not just california. mr. president, australia last year endured an angry summer, which is what it was called, which brought both the hottest month and the hottest day the country has ever witnessed and a four-month heat wave, severely e wildfires and torrential rains and flooding causing $2.4 billion in damages. last year's heat wave in china was the worst in at least 140 years.
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and these droughts, these droughts have very real consequences for water availability. many regions in southeast asia, south asia and sub-saharan africa, for example, are expected to experience a decline of 20% in water availability if the climate warms two degrees centigrade and 50% declines if the climate warms by four degrees send great. what wdegrees centigrade. what we are talking about here is the inability of people to get water to drink, the inability of people to get water to farm. and this then leads to other problems, including mass migrations and struggles of limited natural resources. mr. president, with sustained drought and heat waves comes wildfire. as thomas tidwell, chief of the u.s. forest service, explained to congress last year, america's
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wildfire season now lasts two months longer than it did 40 years ago. two months longer than just 40 years ago. and burns up twice as much land as it did then because of the hotter, drier conditions from climate change. and we're seeing this very, very horrendous and expensive situation of wildfires in the southwest of this country. mr. president, wildfires, in fact, are expected to increase 50% across the united states under a changing climate, while some studies predict increases of more than 100% in parts of areas of the western united states by 2050. so when you think about climate change and you think about drier forests, we are looking at very, very serious problems regarding
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wildfires. mr. president, rising sea levels, another great concern in impact of climate change, also leads to more destructive storm surges. according to noaa, hurricane sandy's storm surge exceeded 14 feet in places which was a record for new york city. the national academy of sciences estimated that for every 1.8-degree fahrenheit increase in global average surface temperatures, there could be a twofold to sevenfold increase in the risk of extreme storm surge events similar to hurricanes katrina and sandy. and when some people tell us, well, gee, we can't afford to address the problems of climate change, i would suggest that we cannot afford not to address this crisis. if only for the kinds of money that we're going to have to be spending repairing the damage of
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hurricanes like sandy and maybe hurricanes that are even worse. mr. president, we heard during a recent senate environment committee hearing that florida, the state of florida, has already seen five to eight inches of sea level rise in the past 50 years with no end in sight. and the florida keys -- in the florida keys, we expect that nearly 90% of monroe county would be completely inundated at high tide with just three of sea level rise and new orleans can expect to see an ocean level increase of well over four feet by the end of the century. in other words, what we are looking at here in florida, miami, louisiana, new orleans, massachusetts, boston, new york city, what we are looking at is sea rising which actually threatens the very existence of
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parts of those cities. experts are predicting cities like miami, fort lauderdale, new york and new orleans will face a growing threat of partial submersion within just a few decades as sea levels and storm surge levels continue to climb. mr. president, what will it mean if the seas continue to rise under extreme weather events -- severe droughts, wildfires, storms, flooding -- bomb much more common? one of the most important -- become much more common? one of the most important consequences will be massive human dislocation all over the world. more than 32 million people fled their homes in 2012 because of disasters such as floods and storms, an estimated 98% of this displacement was related to climate change. so when you look into the future and one of the reasons that
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agencies like the c.i.a. and the department of defense and other security agencies worry very much about climate change, is they see the national security implications of mass dislocations of people, of people in different countries, or regions of the country fighting over limited resources, water, land, in order to survive. the department of defense in its 2010 quadrennial review called climate change a potential -- quote -- "accelerant of instability or conflict." mr. president, the potential economic impact of climate change on agriculture, for example, is huge. water scarcity will make it harder to irrigate fields and higher temperatures will make some areas unsuitable for growing crops. a study from the international food policy research institute
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found that globally, climate change will greatly increase prices for staple crops such as corn, wheat, rice and soybeans, including an approximately 100% increase in the price of wheat. so what this means for america americans, for people all over the world who are already struggling economically, what it means is that climate change will mean less areas being farmed and higher food prices, something that we really cannot afford right now. mr. president, i think the question that some of the viewers may have is if the science is so clear -- and is really is quite clear, here in the united states and around the world -- why don't we fix it? why don't we come up with the
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bold strategy that we need so that america is a leader in the world in cutting greenhouse gas emissions and transforming our energy system? and the good news here is that the transformation of our energy system is going to be less expensive, if you like, than doing nothing. doing nothing means that we will see higher food prices, we will see wildfires, we will see scarceties of food, we will see weather disaws disturbances wreg havoc all over the world, requiring huge amounts of money to address those problems. so what is the alternative? what do we begin to do? and i think the answer is -- and the good news is -- that we
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